HOW SAG WORKS FOR BETTER OR WORSE

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SAG Rules and Guidelines Revealed

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The mysteries of SAG (The Screen Actors Guild) are revealed in this edition of The Naked Unicorn Podcast. Host Jason Sirotin sat down with SAG Atlanta Local President, Ric Reitz and entertainment attorney Scott Patterson to uncover the facts about the most powerful union in showbiz.

SAG AFTRA FACTS ATLANTA

How SAG, the actors union, works!

The truth about SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and how the union works.
(Naked Unicorn Podcast Transcript)

Jason Sirotin Naked Unicorn PodcastRic Reitz SAG Atlanta, GA VideoEntertainment Lawyer Scott Patterson Atlanta

Jason Sirotin:
All right. Welcome to the Naked Unicorn Podcast. Today we are speaking with Rick Reitz who is the SAG-AFTRA Atlanta President. One of only 25 nationally, and I'm here with Scott Patterson, ECG Productions Entertainment Attorney and he's with the pattersonfirm.com. Let's chat Ric about SAG.

Ric Reitz:
All right.

Jason Sirotin:
What is SAG?

Ric Reitz:
SAG is a Screen Actors Guild. It's been in existence now for nearly 80 years. Obviously covering most aspect, all aspects of film and some aspects of television that were historical shot on film but as we know the evolution of film and digital media changed that equation. AFTRA the American Federation of Television and Radio Artist has been in existence longer. It began radio and television … certainly radio began before film really took over the Unites States and they watched everything in video land and in radio land. They merged 18 months ago and we are now one union called SAG-AFTRA.

Jason Sirotin:
SAG, I get questions a lot from people, they write me or be like, “I want to do a SAG project, how does it work? What do we do?” Let's start real simple. Why would someone need to use SAG?

Ric Reitz:
For access to first celebrities, if you need celebrities, anybody that hopes to get their product distributed in any kind of national or international way needs some name recognition, at least from the director, the producer or the performers. In the SAG sense, as of July 1 over this past summer, all contracts now that a new contract was ratified, all contracts for all intents and purposes will be referred to as SAG-AFTRA. There are SAG legacy contracts that predated that time. There are AFTRA legacy contracts that predated that time. Everything from July 1 forward now will be SAG-AFTRA.

Jason Sirotin:
Now, you're a SAG actor, SAG-AFTRA actor.

Ric Reitz:
Correct. Well I was a member of both individually and now I pay one set of dues instead of two.

Jason Sirotin:
Got you. Got you. From an actor standpoint, what is the advantage of being in a union?

Ric Reitz:
Union allows me as an actor to have lots of protections for wages and working conditions. If you're going to make this a lifelong pursuit and I have. I've been in the business 36 years as an actor and the only way to survive on that long haul is to be associated with a union. Number one, it entitles me to be able to earn insurance, sets me up for a pension that's like having a military career. Believe it or not, I have pensions in both SAG and AFTRA in their legacy portions and both of them at 30+ years each.

If I were an individual that was not savvy enough to watch my retirement accounts, my investments, wanting to know about health insurance and the like is these guys protect it for me. I can add to that if I choose to or I get minimum contributions every time I work. For somebody who wants a lifelong goal, it really is the only way to play and the premium payments for performance come under union contracts.

Jason Sirotin:
You know what's interesting is as an empathetic human being, I love SAG. As a director, I like SAG because I want to work with great actors and great talent. As a producer, I hate SAG. That's kind of why I really wanted to talk to you today. I want to figure out what am I doing right, what am I doing wrong, why do I have these feelings. What’s in the future for me? Am I going to be able to have a better relationship with SAG than I have previously had? That's what I want to figure out today.

Ric Reitz:
Well, there's no wrong decision, you're not doing anything wrong. There are million ways to achieve one's goals. For every individual, there's another way to achieve a goal and your path is simply your path. Whether it involves the union or not and you happen to be in a right to work state which permits union and nonunion to work side-by-side. One doesn't even have to be a member of the union to be hired in a union capacity here, whereas a union person cannot work in a nonunion capacity but that's another long story and another long rainy day.

The advantages for you are multifold. As I started to say, as a person who wants to attract high-end talent, I'll say this much and I'll say this in defense of all actors. To be a professional actor is simply to be paid for your craft. It doesn't mean you’re union or nonunion. Now there are people who work towards the professional ideal presumably at a higher level and they tend to associate with the craft unions.

Chances are, you will find many more professionals, top professionals in a union basis. That is not to say you will not find good professionals in a nonunion scenario. Certainly as time progresses, people who are simply exposed to work and get experience, they grow in their ability and their craft and they become valuable in another way. But when you want to make a motion picture and I know that you're busy trying to turn out your own product now is you're going to need stars. Without stars, you're not going to get distribution and all the stars with the exception of some reality people who sort of pop in and pop off the map real quickly like The real Housewives.

Jason Sirotin:
They're all SAG.

Ric Reitz:
Well if they want to be on the talk show circuit, they have to be.

Jason Sirotin:
Right, right.

Ric Reitz:
Actually we have one of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Jason Sirotin:
He did air quotes around real.

Ric Reitz:
That's right. Here's a young lady that appears on this show and she need to do the talk show circuit to publicize what she did and to be on TV in union clad states, union secure states like New York, California and Illinois, she has to be a member and she’d let her membership fall into her ears because she's a reality star. She's big deal. She’s playing by her own set of rules.

You know what? You're allowed to in this world. You're allowed to in the state but if you leave the state and in any kind of acting capacity and go into the what is now … Half the states are still union secure. To work in any of the states, you got to be a member so why limit your opportunity to work just because you live in a right to work state. I'm not going to join, I'm going to do the best of both worlds. I want to work everywhere, everywhere in the world.

Jason Sirotin:
You know what's interesting is people always say right to work. It's Georgia is a right to work state. I don't think people really understand what that means. Can you explain what a right to work state is?

Ric Reitz:
Yeah, 1947, the federal government set aside a rule base allowing states to opt in or opt out of a scenario that required people to either join a union or not. Historically, in the North Eastern corridor, the Rust Belt and other historical states, the unions became pretty tough in their existence. Sometimes things evolved into violence, not to say that management didn't do the same thing to suppress the unions.

It was a contentious history. Because of that history, other states that were evolving industry didn't want to be beholden to a single set of rules and so the federal government allowed an act to be called right to work. Georgia was one of the first states to sign onto that law as most of the southern states were. If you could look at a populated map, you'd see the concentration is highest in the South so Southwest and lower Midwest is where the right to work areas have popped up. Right now, there are 24 right to work states out of 50 so you get the idea of the landscape.

Jason Sirotin:
It just means that you can work on any job.

Ric Reitz:
You cannot be prohibited from working a job while it is union, you can work the job and not have to join and you have to be paid comparable wages and given comparable benefits.

Jason Sirotin:
As SAG has evolved and as filmmaking has evolved, it's cheaper to make films.

Ric Reitz:
I'd say that filmmaking has devolved.

Jason Sirotin:
You think it's devolved?

Ric Reitz:
It's the economy of filmmaking is changed and I actually use this speech a lot when I talk to my colleagues in California is what made us think in this industry that world economy would not apply to entertainment. The world economy and technology changed everything. The Internet changed everything so the cost basis for delivering product to the public, your opportunity to make profit in larger margins has shrunk to the extent that the whole economy had to be reshaped and that's where I feel you’re finding yourself trapped between a rock and a hard place right now is you’re evolving into the entertainment sphere but you have a reduced economy with which to do it.

If you sell the product, you can't sell something for less than you made it or it's not an economic model that works very long for you so you have to deliver product now into this restricted zone. You have to find alternative ways to finance your situation or to reduce your overall cost. That's where you are right now.

Jason Sirotin:
You're absolutely right. I think we've made seven features now. I think five of them have gotten distribution. Several of them have been what we would consider very successful, being number eight on [crosstalk 00:09:47].

Ric Reitz:
They broke even.

Jason Sirotin:
Yeah, exactly but we as points owners, have never seen a dime from it. That's why we haven’t been making so many movies and we turned to doing other things that we were able to do.

Jason Sirotin:
What everybody doesn't understand in distribution, there's the cost, the continuing cost of distribution and then you find out that 1000 people have their hands in your pocket like all businesses, you're successful, I want a piece of that. Let me introduce you to so and so but I get a piece right. I get another piece which creates all kinds of legal wonders for you Scott.

Scott Patterson:
Yeah exactly.

Jason Sirotin:
You've got to make them cheap now. You've got to figure out the lowest way and you've got to come up with realistic goals for your investors if you're making something for 500,000, you have to know that I want to straightaway sell this for 2 million at a film festival and here's why we can sell it, we have this name attached or we’re doing this subject matter.

We've had a lot of successes in the documentary space and in the family space which I think is so different from what the general public watches at the movie theater because those are all big names. You can still make successful pieces of work that don't have big names but you're not going to reach that level of commercial success.

Ric Reitz:
I see but you're parsing mass audience versus niched audiences and the great thing about the Internet is it's evolved this entire niche marketplace where the benefits may not be as great. The cost don't have to be as high. The risk doesn't have to be as great. You're constantly weighing one against the other. Do you want emotional success, financial success or personal pride? You got to ask yourself am I in business to make money, am I in business to go atta boy, look at the mirror and go I'm really talented and I'm a gifted guy and everybody knows it.

You want to make a lacrosse movie, you can sell that to lacrosse people. You want to make a wrestling movie? There are wrestling people or gymnast or swimmers and people who love horses. There was a religious picture here, religious material called the Sunday Horse based on a book that they shot here. They shot it for 3 million bucks.

Jason Sirotin:
Which there's people listening going $3 million, I just made my last feature for 30. Three million sounds like a lot.

Ric Reitz:
But they populated it with stars and because they have a history in distribution or know people or engaged to company that sells it, they had done their planning in advance just like any Harvard graduate or Ivy League graduate would do. What's the business plan? I'm going to spend $3 million. We're going to make eight and you and I go that would be great. For them, not so good.

The big boys don't like to make just 5 million bucks but then again, do they really make 5 million bucks. The conventional structure of cost of production of an independent feature to profitability, they usually use 2 to 1 or 3 to 1. Here's the example, make a movie for $5 million and it better gross 15 million before it breaks even so back end points for you is a scenario that has to go through this exponential increase of hands and numbers before it ever comes back.

Jason Sirotin:
Back end points are bullshit.

Ric Reitz:
Yeah. They're total horsehit unless you have a runaway horse.

Jason Sirotin:
The producer who makes the film or who put up the money is the only one who’s going to probably make money.

Ric Reitz:
The goal is to make back the money for the investors. The distributors make money up front. They know the chain. They know their cost backwards. The thing is this, a successful movie, you have to keep investing in the publicity to keep it rolling. Here's what's interesting about distribution. Distributors in many cases have partnerships with the exhibitors, have partnerships with the promoters, have partnerships with the advertisers. They keep on buying space, time and services from themselves. This is where tricky Hollywood bookkeeping comes into play was or a government’s buying hammers.

I have a beautiful hammer from Sears for 15 bucks but I’ll sell it to you for 300. You go, “You're selling it to me?” “Yes.” “But I own the hammer.” “That's right. Do you want to pay $300 for your own hammer?” You don't have to share the profit points. I'll buy that $300 hammer.

Jason Sirotin:
What Ric is talking about is a lot of times, when they're doing these big budget movies, they have internal advertising departments and they just fork over all of this cash to their internal advertising departments which makes it so that the film never actually makes a profit. It breaks even or it loses money which is even better.

Ric Reitz:
But they had revenue but they did not have profitable revenue.

Jason Sirotin:
Exactly.

Ric Reitz:
But everybody got a raise this year because there's grosses and nets and there’s nets of nets.

Jason Sirotin:
I know that this was a little bit of a tangent that was off-topic so we'll pop back but it's so fascinating, this whole how you make money on movies. Let's get back to SAG. If I want to make a SAG production, let's say I want to use you who were a SAG actor, who I've wanted to use and we've worked together a couple times. What steps to I need to take as a independent producer to get a SAG AFTRA talent involved?

Ric Reitz:
Let's talk about different categories. Let's talk about film and TV first as a category versus corporate industrial versus voice over or commercial. If we're talking film and television and you have a budget that is large enough or padded in the right way so that you can include union participation in all its fringes is you would go to the SAG film office here in Georgia. If you happen to be in Georgia, I don't know where your listenership is entirely but you go to this office here and you go …

Jason Sirotin:
It's in this room.

Ric Reitz:
All right it's in this room, it doesn't leave the parking lot which is a shame really for you.

Male:
He's working on that.

Ric Reitz:
Say you got Melissa Goodman here at the Georgia SAG AFTRA office and you go, I want to become … This film, this LLC, you're going to create first of all I would recommend you set up a private entity for every production. There are liability reasons for all of that and Scott will be the first to chime in about that and feel free.

So you set up an LLC and you say I want this LLC to become a signatory. That doesn't mean your normal company is a signatory, just the LLC. You sign onto that. Now you're getting into films. There is a bond that will be required which is a projection of potential wages for the film that's deposited first and then those funds are used to pay down.

Jason Sirotin:
It's deposited in what's called an escrow account.

Ric Reitz:
That's correct. Then it's used to pay off the individual rates and salaries of those who participate. They'll do a background check, it's a new company as long as you sign it and you put up the bond, you're home free. Off you go to the races and you go by the attendant scales that apply to your film or TV category and let's use film historical SAG product. There are breaks in salaries that are committed for you the producer, now you're wearing your producer hat.

Jason Sirotin:
Yup.

Ric Reitz:
The part that didn't like it but you're going to love it is because not all films are equal. Budgets of $2.5 million and above are what we would call regular budget. Let's call them high regular budget movies. From 600,000 to 2.5 million is what we call the low-budget category, pretty wide swath there. What's the difference? Instead of paying $895 a day for an actor. Now you're paying $500 a day for an actor just by the category difference. Same amount of work but it's a budget category.

Jason Sirotin:
Let's dive into that a little for a second. There is one lower which is the SAG ultralow.

Ric Reitz:
Right. There's the SAG ultralow which is 200,000 and below. Then there's one from 200,000 to 600,000.

Jason Sirotin:
The 200 to 600,000 which is the lowest allows you to have SAG-

Ric Reitz:
No the lowest is 200,000 or below.

Jason Sirotin:
200,000 or below and that one allows you to pay SAG actors $100 a day and then have non-SAG actors.

Ric Reitz:
$100 for eight hours.

Jason Sirotin:
For eight hours right.

Ric Reitz:
There's still over time.

Jason Sirotin:
Unfortunately.

Ric Reitz:
You say that but stop and think about it. If somebody's trying to make a living and you say I'm going to give you $100 and eight hours becomes 14 or 16 hours which is not unusual in this business is they have to eat and live too.

Jason Sirotin:
I think the challenges is when you're making … We've made movies for 60,000. When you're making a movie for that low, nobody's making money. There's nobody to protect any of us.

Ric Reitz:
But I'll give you an example of somebody who has abused the category, I won't use their names.

Jason Sirotin:
No please, use their name.

Ric Reitz:
Or their production.

Jason Sirotin:
And their production title.

Ric Reitz:
There's an independent company that came into the state of Georgia and came to me similarly as you're talking to me now and said what should we do. We want to do it under $600,000 but we want to qualify it 500,000. I said I recommend you budget from 550 to 6, to not take it a penny over $600,000 because it kicks in a different category, modified low-budget is the $200,000-$600,000 category and that's 256 a day.

Jason Sirotin:
For eight hours?

Ric Reitz:
For eight hours. For eight hours.

Jason Sirotin:
Which is rare on a movie set.

Ric Reitz:
You're not going to get eight hours but you might bring in a day player who only works for four, six. But the stars, these people came in and they had four lead roles. It's a modestly conceived movie, action thriller. Essentially I said, we need some stars to get some distribution. Because they had found a distributor that was in the digital space, not conventional distribution space but Internet release, they became what is known as a new media project.

Now, new media is a different category altogether instead of traditional film television. New media with the newly negotiated contract at $1.2 million or above, it has a fixed table of fees but under $1.2 million, there is no fixed table. It is negotiate as you will negotiate. If you have distribution in new media, even though you had $1 million budget, you could still get away with paying $100 for an individual if that's what you chose to pay or negotiated.

Jason Sirotin:
Are we considering Netflix as a new media?

Ric Reitz:
Netflix is considered new media but they are kindly working on the broadcast model for scales but they fall in that over $1.2 million category. Prior to them, house of cards for instance or orange is the new black were abiding by the rules but they could have gone another direction but they chose not to. They said no we’ll pay the normal scale had we done it per normal contract but we're distributing it here. Now, a lot of the new people like these folks from out of town, they came in and did this budget. They were going to pay $50,000 for one week for a star. That's $600,000 budget. They were going to pay $15,000 a week for three weeks of work for the next level star, 10,000 a week for the next two stars for three weeks. This is going to be like gross of 30,000, 45,000, 50,000 for their 4 stars. Everybody else they paid $100 a day.

Jason Sirotin:
Flat.

Ric Reitz:
Not flat but they had to pay the overtime.

Jason Sirotin:
Oh they did. And wardrobe, a lot of people don't understand that you're paying wardrobe and …

Ric Reitz:
If you're asking them to bring their own wardrobe, you have to give them $15.

Jason Sirotin:
Then, what about pension and health?

Ric Reitz:
Pension and health is added on top of that too but you got access to the stars and then you got most of your cast … Well I don't like that scenario, I was actually asked to be the fourth star and when they found out I was from Georgia, they asked me instead of taking 10,000 a week to take $100 a week and I went, “No, thank you.” They went but … I said I read the script, this is one of the stars. I saw what you published in LA. You published 10,000 a week. I want 10,000 a week. You live here so we’ll give you $100 and I went pretty much shove it up your ass.

Jason Sirotin:
Ric, that sounds totally fair. A week’s worth of work for $100.

Ric Reitz:
For $100 a day.

Jason Sirotin:
Oh $100 a day.

Ric Reitz:
$100 a day but they were going to promise me a week.

Jason Sirotin:
Oh 500 whole dollars.

Ric Reitz:
$500 for the week.

Jason Sirotin:
Holy cow. Where would you spend it?

Ric Reitz:
I don't know. Not many places, McDonald's perhaps. That’s somebody who is taking advantage of the new media structure and I argued at the national level that they should have created a matching structure for productions that matches the SAG film code of ultralow, modified low, low. So in the $600,000 range, at least pay me $256 a day. At least come to that scale. They would not.

Jason Sirotin:
Cheap. Cheapos.

Ric Reitz:
They wanted me to invest in their dream and they said we'll give you points which brings me back to your phrase which is …

Jason Sirotin:
I just threw up.

Ric Reitz:
There are no points for you. There are no points for you.

Jason Sirotin:
There’s no points. Don't take points. Anybody who offers you points in anything, say no.

Scott Patterson:
Is there a way to negotiate on the front end as to how points are defined? I mean do you have leverage on those situations or not?

Ric Reitz:
It becomes a definition of net or gross product.

Scott Patterson:
And we run in to that before.

Jason Sirotin:
Yeah, but first of all, if you're talking about you don't get access to all the information so you got to count on that person to give you …

Ric Reitz:
That they're going to be truthful.

Jason Sirotin:
That they're going to be truthful and then how much am I going to have to pay you at your whopping crazy fees to go after these people. It becomes not worth it. You end up just throwing money down a black hole. Okay let's go back for a second. Let's go back and let's talk about SAG costs. Let's talk about SAG costs. So I have my day rate and then I have pension and health and then I have if I'm paying somebody to bring wardrobe.

Ric Reitz:
The wardrobe is like $15 for … And what it's a fee for is for cleaning. If you go to a dry cleaner and you got a suit.

Jason Sirotin:
Let me give you an idea of what I'm trying to do. What I'm trying to let independent producers who keep asking me these questions to stop asking me.

Ric Reitz:
Here’s the model. Let's keep it simple. Low-budget starts at $100 for eight hours.

Jason Sirotin:
Okay. What happens after the eight hours?

Ric Reitz:
Plus and actually they always ask for a +10 so agent gets 10 so it's really $110 and then you're going to get pension and health placed on top of that.

Jason Sirotin:
How much percentage is that?

Ric Reitz:
I would use as your model $30.

Jason Sirotin:
What percentage … so that's about 30%?

Ric Reitz:
About 33%, 32.

Jason Sirotin:
33%.

Ric Reitz:
Use 33% as your model so if you've added that to the plus 10 so now your …

Jason Sirotin:
Has that gone up because of Obamacare?

Ric Reitz:
No. No it has not. That's another issue altogether. We’ll discuss that in yet our third podcast. Basically, you're buying an actor for eight hours for about 140, 145 bucks.

Jason Sirotin:
Then what happens as soon as they go to eight hours and 5 minutes.

Ric Reitz:
8 to 10 hours becomes a time and a half.

Jason Sirotin:
For people who don't understand time and a half, that's time …

Ric Reitz:
That's $100 per hour so that $100 is broken down into an hourly figure. So divide 100 by 8 and then you come up with what your scale is per hour so then it's for those next two hours …

Jason Sirotin:
Let's say it's $12 an hour, normally it will be +6 so it would be $18 an hour.

Ric Reitz:
That would be an example. That's for 8 to 10 hours. Then from 10 to 12, it becomes double-time.

Jason Sirotin:
If I'm paying $110 a day, it becomes $220.

Ric Reitz:
That's correct.

Jason Sirotin:
Now, what happens if I …

Ric Reitz:
Well that would be, it's an hourly cost. It doesn't actually double your day rate. It just doubles the hourly cost for the applicable hours.

Jason Sirotin:
But if we went 16 hours is what I was considering.

Ric Reitz:
I would say conventionally, for most independent films, you're going to be plus or minus 12 hours a day, that's normal. Most budgets are configured to a 12 hour day knowing that many of your players will not be working 12 hours and that others will be working 14 hours. You start to get 16 hours, you're killing people.

Jason Sirotin:
Oh yeah, I've done it.

Ric Reitz:
Those usually happen on fraturdays which is your production which has been pushed to Friday and you know that you got to take off till Monday so you start Friday afternoon and you end it dawn on Saturday morning and so we call that Fraturday.

Jason Sirotin:
Then on top of all that Ric, then we have if I go into what's called a meal penalty. What is a meal penalty?

Ric Reitz:
A meal penalty, if you're on location, you have up to six hours from the commencement of the crew call. Crew call is at 8 AM, you have to feed everybody by 2 PM. If you go over 2 PM and have not fed the people and given them at least a 30 minute break, you are charged for every few minutes that you go over into their break.

Jason Sirotin:
How much?

Ric Reitz:
That table I don't have off the top of my head.

Jason Sirotin:
Let me tell you about a situation and you tell me who is right and who's wrong. I'm on set so we called Grace. If we know we're going to be close to our last … going into our meal and I know I need 15 more minutes and I know that I have the camera set, according to your rules I'm not allowed to move the camera, is that correct?

Ric Reitz:
No. You can move the camera.

Jason Sirotin:
Okay. I was told on one feature that we had.

Ric Reitz:
You can do whatever you want to do, you just know that there's a cost associated with every time you … The longer you go, you're going to get penalized that way. The union doesn't have to do anything.

Jason Sirotin:
So I called Grace. I had 15 minutes and then may lead actress who I know is trying to force me into a meal penalty because she’d be doing that. She was like, “I have to go to the bathroom. I need makeup. I need that.”

Ric Reitz:
Yeah. Well then there are actors like that. Those are people I don't like. To be honest with you, even in the union, I don’t like those people. They're people who are going to try to nickel and dime you to death because they haven't worked this year. Here's the magic formula. You want to know with the magic formula at the end of today is for stars?

Jason Sirotin:
Please, yes.

Ric Reitz:
For them to qualify annually for insurance, individually they're trying to make $15,000 a year. That's all it takes for an actor to qualify for insurance, $15,000 a year. To qualify for your family, $30,000 a year and there are people, if you want a star and you know that you're near at the end-of-the-year and they haven't done a film this year, offer them 30,000 bucks. They'll do it. Even if their rate is 100,000 or 50,000, you go I need you here for a week for 30,000 bucks. I will do that. Because they have to make insurance.

Jason Sirotin:
Does that pay for their insurance so they have no other insurance payments?

Ric Reitz:
They end up contributing on a quarterly basis like real people but the thing is …

Jason Sirotin:
Like real people.

Ric Reitz:
But I mean to qualify, by being in the union, you don't automatically get insurance. I have to work a certain volume because you have to pay in to the system enough and actually I don't pay, the producer pays. That's what the P and W payment is on top. It comes out of these huge giant [inaudible 00:29:25] of all the actors 170,000 of them nationally that are in the union and most of the people don't use the stuff. Most people don't qualify. You've got a contribution every time somebody works and only 20% of the people actually qualify or 10%.

Jason Sirotin:
It's sad for actors, it's not easy.

Ric Reitz:
It's not. It's not an easy life. This is why I get into the whole fee thing for you. If you want to make a living doing this and you want quality actors available to you, $100 a day is chump change. It saves your ass in the long run from a producer standpoint because I got to get the shot and I can't afford more. I like to go in a situation where there's not a lot of money. I would've done that movie with those people and not for $10,000 if everybody was making $100. Literally if everybody … It was favored nations, nobody on this set, cast or crew is making more than 100 bucks, I will do that picture for you because we're in it together.

Jason Sirotin:
Right and favored nations means that everybody makes the same.

Ric Reitz:
Everybody makes the same. To me, there's a way to negotiate and work it and the new media thing, I can take that. I could legitimately take that. I won't necessarily because of where I am in my career but under the right circumstances, I mean I've worked for you before and we worked for 100 bucks and we had no problem at all but we knew nobody was making any money. We like the project and we liked each other and we did it. You can get good actors. Stars will do … Why does Hallie Berry star in these … because she wants to win an Oscar and she’s not going to get a role that is demanding of her unless she plays down. Hilary Swank and all these people ended up doing movies that made no money because they knew they didn't have to be pretty.

Jason Sirotin:
Jonah Hill took scale on Scorsese's last movie.

Ric Reitz:
That's right.

Jason Sirotin:
He made 60 grand for the whole movie because he cared about… He wanted to work with Scorsese.

Ric Reitz:
That's right. He can do that. He made the minimum. He took the minimum and that's okay and you're going to find situations like that all day long. But anyway getting back to your project, and projecting cost for you and meal penalties, there are people who are going to try to screw you to the wall. I hate those people. I don't even want them in the union. You know what? I will tell you very frankly and I don't care if the union is listening. If I'm in a situation and I know we're about to wrap the shot and if we break it down, we know the energy is gone and matching and everything starts to go away and we happen to float 10, 15 minutes, don't even put it down. Lunch started at two, it didn't start at 2:15 as far as I'm concerned as long as everybody is fine with that, we're good.

Jason Sirotin:
Because you're all a team and it's all about …

Ric Reitz:
Yeah. But if it becomes a half-hour and it becomes regular and it's an hour and suddenly you're not being fed at all, the penalties are put in place just to make sure you take care of people. Remember, these rules all developed after years of abuse in Hollywood where literally, you were drugging people, keeping them up, letting them sleep for four hours. Why do you have a 12 hour turnaround from the time you wrap a star to the next time they can be on the set is because historically they didn't let them sleep so they drugged them.

Judy Garland became a drug addict because they drugged her. They gave her drugs to go to sleep, drugs to wake up. She would get four hours a night and had all the pressure of carrying the picture. That's how the rules evolve. It's like that evil union, well remember, there were evil producers once upon a time.

Jason Sirotin:
What?

Ric Reitz:
Yes and once upon a time and they still exist.

Scott Patterson:
You missed your calling Jason.

Ric Reitz:
I can tell you from a tax credit if you listen to our other blog, we're talking about tax credits, our history of negotiating with producers on a large scale in Hollywood is if you give them 30% tax credit, they want 31. Give them 31, they want 32. They want 32, then they want your house and the note to your car. They want something. They love going back with their cigar and their drink at the end of today and going [what did you get in for 00:33:17]. I beat them down, suckers. Loser suckers. I got them.

Jason Sirotin:
That doesn't sound like me at all.

Ric Reitz:
No. Not yet, not yet anyway. But I mean remember the whole structure of the union had to be enacted because people abuse the system and if you want good people to be around even local people that are good is you got to pay them to stay around. If I'm not paid enough money to live in Georgia and act as an actor, I got to go. If there were 100 of us who are like that that are at the top of the class and have to leave, you don't have any actors. You've got kids.

Jason Sirotin:
We were talking about we had $100 a day plus $10, 33% for pension and health, time and a half over eight and then over 10, it's double-time.

Ric Reitz:
It's double-time from 10 to 12 and then what’s called Golden is anything over 12.

Jason Sirotin:
Then what happens then?

Ric Reitz:
Triple.

Jason Sirotin:
Triple time over 12.

Ric Reitz:
It’s called Golden and if you're … Listen I had a weekly salary, I did From the Earth to the Moon for HBO. Everyone was on favored nations. Everybody took the same rate even the stars. It was fabulous project because it's Tom Hanks and it's Ron Howard.

Jason Sirotin:
Absolutely, great series.

Ric Reitz:
Oh, it was unbelievable.

Jason Sirotin:
Fincannon's casted that.

Ric Reitz:
Yeah and the catering was the best because they knew they weren't paying us, lobsters, steak. I mean it was a layout everyday. It was all you could do to get in your costume the next week because you're like going, “Wow I put on weight.” Kraft services is great. You should see what they got.

Jason Sirotin:
I prefer peanut butter and jelly and Laffy Taffy.

Ric Reitz:
But we got to one of those fraturdays where I was called in at noon. I didn't go home until eight in the morning the next day. By the time you added up the overtime and the meal penalties and everything else they had, I made more for that day than I made in the week. You just go, oh … But they kicked my ass. I had to sleep all day Saturday, recover on Sunday and go back to work on Monday morning. You're like, “Oh my God. This is hard stuff.” You want us to look fresh. You put me on a set for 12 hours, how many hours do I really work that day.

Jason Sirotin:
Maybe four or five?

Ric Reitz:
Maybe. My job as an actor is to maintain my energy and conserve it so that you get bursts that match from the scene that was started 12 hours ago is, “Oh look he doesn't have crow’s feet and bags under his eyes and he's burned out.” I don’t eat chicken and things of that nature because of the tryptophan. You eat that at lunch, you're not performing two hours afterwards, you’re sleeping or you want to sleep and that's the performance you get is a sleepy one.

There are all kinds of tricks to surviving eating protein versus carbohydrates for an actor hydrating but not too much. I did an overnight shoot where it was so hot and I was drinking so much water, I look like a stuck pig by the next morning because I’d taken on so much water weight. I went, “Oh my god, I didn't think of that.” It gets a little nutty.

Jason Sirotin:
I like it. If I have one SAG actor, I have to pay everybody.

Ric Reitz:
Currently, if you're under any SAG contract and everybody on that production, union or not that performs is under the SAG rate.

Jason Sirotin:
Except on the SAG ultralow.

Ric Reitz:
Except for on the SAG ultralow is correct. There it doesn't have to be [inaudible 00:36:42] wages.

Jason Sirotin:
This has happened to me several times with you Ric and we were talking before the show started. I've asked Ric to be in several industrial or corporate videos.

Ric Reitz:
Some of them with my clothes on.

Jason Sirotin:
Most of them. I had asked Ric and he had informed me that I would have to pay everybody else the SAG minimum for the day and I couldn't do it. It made me upset because in my head when I wrote the script, I was like, “Oh Ric would be perfect for this.” Ric, what is the union doing about this ever evolving where my corporate clients are saying you cannot have union people because it's going to cost us too much.

Ric Reitz:
Once again, let's parse it. For SAG ultralow budgets, that's for movies, where you can get away for $100 and you can have mixed union and nonunion and not have to pay the nonunion people the same wage. For instance, you could pay me $100, you could pay them $50. Now, we are trying to develop a waiver particular to Georgia.

Jason Sirotin:
One second, before you go there, how much is it typically to pay you to be in a corporate or industrial production?

Ric Reitz:
Depends on what it's for and where it places. If I were going as a union scale +10, as a spokesman, that would put me in the neighborhood of 700, $750 a day.

Jason Sirotin:
That's for eight hours?

Ric Reitz:
That's for eight hours. I normally don't work at that rate. I actually work at $1500 a day but that's 36 years of experience talking. I guarantee you getting off the set with union spokes guy like me is what might take others 8 hours, I'll do in 4.

Jason Sirotin:
Right exactly. There's so much value in having good talent. So if I'm paying you 1500 in the scale, for everybody else is 750.

Ric Reitz:
That's for a spokesman. If it's a day player, they're down to 500.

Jason Sirotin:
So now I have to pay everybody even if they have one line or if they have one word.

Ric Reitz:
That's the current one.

Jason Sirotin:
Which makes it almost impossible for me to hire SAG talent for industrials or corporate videos.

Ric Reitz:
It doesn't make it impossible. Probably with the budget that you've been given, if you've been given 20,000, 15,000, 30,000 whatever it is but it's a project of large scale and scope.

Jason Sirotin:
Ric, I got news for you, we're working with Fortune 500 companies, those are the budgets that they're operating at.

Ric Reitz:
I know. It's crazy. That didn't used to be the way.

Jason Sirotin:
But they were doing a lot more video. Where they used to do one video a year or two videos a year, now they're doing 30. It's the same amount of work to get those videos done but they're doing more of them so they expect you to work for cheaper. That's what we expect out of the actors. If we're giving up some, shouldn’t you guys?

Ric Reitz:
Right. The thing is, in the corporate world, I'm trying to motivate and I'm president of SAG AFTRA local and we've gotten permission from our board already and our membership has approved us moving forward. We're now at the national level, we are hoping to obtain a waiver within the next couple of weeks. We've been working on this for years to try to break them down is to allow in the corporate industrial sphere, even educational sphere that you could set up a scenario like the new media ultralow budget thing where you could hire a couple of the union actors and all the rest could be nonunion and paid differently.

In other words, the scales would not apply to any of the nonunion hire. We started to think about it like a star system. You have leads, you have supporting leads and you have five and under actors like soap operas. We are advising SAG national in their negotiations for corporate industrial contracts next spring to develop a tiered schedule so at least not everyone has to be paid $500 even though they have a sentence.

You pay 750 for your lead, $500 for your supporting lead, $250 or $100 … Whatever it happens to be and it’s tiered. That ought to help further. We are asking for a waiver in this sphere that would entitle you to just hire two people and nobody else has to have a scale at all. If you've got a cast of 10 and you hired a couple of union people to be your “leads”, no one else has to be that way.

Jason Sirotin:
That would encourage me more. Now the question is because I haven't done a corporate SAG AFTRA or union shoot, will I still have to do all of the paperwork like the schedule G's and stuff like that, do those still have to happen?

Ric Reitz:
Yes but the thing is that this can come in abbreviated packages which we are recommending and so that you don't have to do anything with the exception of sign an OPO, a one production only agreement. That means you'll abide to the terms and conditions of hire for those union people that it applies to for this single production. Basically, it's a one-page timesheet. I fill out the timesheet on the page. A schedule G doesn't have to be like a movie. You sign in here, my lunch break and this and that, we actually have industrial contracts that are separate from movie, TV contracts. They're very simplified, it's one-page.

Jason Sirotin:
The money still have to go into escrow?

Ric Reitz:
No. Money does not have to go into escrow for any kind of corporate hire. It goes in the movies because those are protracted shoots. When you're going for many weeks, you start to run up a pretty big bill and you don't pay it, the bonding is there to protect the actors. I did a television series here, a pilot, an abbreviated series where the producers ran out of money before we even got it out of the can. The bond ended up paying 75% of my wages. I didn't make everything but I got 75%. That was one way to protect us but I had been hired over a period of four weeks. Suddenly I wasn't getting paid. I got the first check and the next one didn't show up and then the next one didn't show up.

Jason Sirotin:
That's so Atlanta.

Ric Reitz:
It is and we have to be aware that to think big, you got to play big too but at the end of today, we're trying to work out scenarios. Corporate films used to be my bread-and-butter in this market long before we had film incentive. It was not unusual for me to work three days a week, a week doing corporate films or a live presentation for a Corporation at a convention. The scales, I start at it 500 and got better and became a spokesman, a premium spokesman and the rest sort of went on and on.

Yes, a new generation is coming along, you can get them cheaper but at the same time my brother who is also a producer said he goes, I got to cast a 10. I'd love to hire you. I can't because then I got to pay everybody. Then I went, “Okay what if I fix that, would you hire me?” He goes, “Yeah I would.”

Scott Patterson:
Doesn't that ultimately benefit all SAG members if it's the difference between you make a project and a SAG member gets paid versus [crosstalk 00:43:59].

Ric Reitz:
To be honest with you, the trend is that SAG actors are not working in corporate industrial films anymore.

Jason Sirotin:
They won't let us hire them. They tell us this is a nonunion gig. You cannot hire [crosstalk 00:44:10].

Ric Reitz:
We see the charts. We see the national figures and I would like to say that SAG AFTRA nationally will be a little more proactive but in the last national meeting, they looked at the numbers. Corporate industrial films make up .5% or less of their total grosses annually.

Jason Sirotin:
They don't care.

Ric Reitz:
They don't care. All the markets-

Jason Sirotin:
But that means that they don't care about the workers. They're preventing people from working.

Ric Reitz:
What they did is they became guilty of focusing on the high end glitzy projects that pay the most money and where they have the most clout in the stars. Stars weigh in, it works.

When Tom Hanks walks in and says I want XYZ, he kind of gets it. If he speaks on behalf of all of us and said this is fair, everyone goes well Tom Hanks said it was … It is must be fair kind of thing. That's how good he is.

The union felt guilty of watching a percentage of its income go away and didn't react to it in time to save it. I'm sorry to say and I'm being real. I'm not going to lie about it. I'm being real. It's been 15 years easily since that market worked for me in any kind of genuine way. If someone goes well I just put my money over here. I'm going to go over here and do film and TV or I'm going to go do commercials or voice over, whatever it happens to be and that's gone. It's gone but a lot happened between that. It wasn't just the union. We went through two major recessions.

Jason Sirotin:
Two recessions, you had …

Ric Reitz:
9/11.

Jason Sirotin:
Yeah. It was like everything happened.

Ric Reitz:
Everything happened.

Jason Sirotin:
Technology got cheaper. You could make things a lot cheaper which drove down the budgets of almost every project and the talent pool, everybody started to want to be an actor. Everybody was profiting of … How many head shot scams have you seen?

Ric Reitz:
Oh a million. A million.

Jason Sirotin:
The head shot scams are my favorite. Don't fall for head shot scams people.

Ric Reitz:
Yeah and for the actors, don't fall for the agency that charges you for let me help you put together your portfolio. Tell them to shove it sideways because that's not legit or why don’t you take some of my … There's a new agency on the south side that's going if you want to be in my agency, you have to take our acting classes.

Jason Sirotin:
If you teach an acting class, chances are I hate you because you probably can't act, what the shit.

Ric Reitz:
The people who are charging for this, they don't care if you're an actor or not and they go this will help you get more work. These people couldn't act their way out of a bag. You talk to other people, producing a motion on this set for me, these people couldn't produce a fart in a bean eating contest if they were driven to it and somebody said there's 100 bucks in it if you'll fart on camera, they can't do it.

Jason Sirotin:
Let me tell you about a real life situation that I had. We were going to do a movie, I'm not legally allowed to say the name.

Ric Reitz:
With clothes or without [crosstalk 00:47:13]?

Jason Sirotin:
It was very with clothes and it was not … It was $1 million film.

Ric Reitz:
I remember our discussion.

Jason Sirotin:
Yeah we had a big discussion on it and we talked about Fi-Core and there's a lot of discussion about Fi-Core and one of the most famous Fi-Core cases that’s kind of out there was John Voight. John Voight had a friend who wanted to put him in this movie and SAG wouldn't let him do it and so he took out an ad I believe it was in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter talking about how he was going Fi-Core and he wasn't going to let the union push him around, tell him what to do.

What is Fi-Core? Why is it out there now in this sphere that this is something that can be used and why are not more people doing it especially actors? Is the union going to blackball you if you go Fi-Core?

Ric Reitz:
First of all, Fi-Core is a national rule. It's not a SAG rule. Once again, in the atmosphere of helping or hurting unions is they didn't want federal level people to feel that they were trapped and so they gave them a gateway out with a rule called financial core shortened to Fi-Core, F-I dash C-O-R-E.

The Fi-Core status even in Union secure states like California and New York and Illinois allow that person still allow them to work as a union person but also do nonunion work. In a right to work state, Fi-Core is who cares. I mean if you're a nonunion person and you joined the union, why are you backing down again? You might as well just leave the union. It's only an issue in the union secure states. Will the union black ball you? Not necessarily. That's a tangential answer.

Jason Sirotin:
Why don't they like it?

Ric Reitz:
First of all, you become a fee-paying non-actor. You continue to pay fees and dues but you're not a member of the organization. Essentially you’ve …

Jason Sirotin:
You get the benefits.

Ric Reitz:
In a union secure state, you're allowed to continue to pay and receive benefits. There are some things you can't do. You can't vote, you can't participate and other exchanges of education and other tools that the union provides but you are entitled in a union secure state to still get your pension and health if you qualify on an annual basis. You are not officially a member so you have to take that off. That's the big bruise to the face.

For a guy like John Voight who’s a star, that doesn't seem to matter because he has a reputation that preexisted. For people who just haven't made it and joined the union in those states and want to step aside, they've chosen financial core with the presumption that I’ll come back to union someday but the union has to be back to full status, it has to go before a review committee. Those people aren't the friendliest. I got to be honest.

Jason Sirotin:
That's the blackballing.

Ric Reitz:
Well, that's the blackball, to walk through the front door because essentially, you pay your dues but at a lower scale. You might be paying 80% or 75%. I don't know what the percentage is but you're paying a little bit less so you don't get all the benefits. When you’re trying to work side-by-side with your brother who is toting the cart on the same issue and you go, “Well actually we’re not.”

Jason Sirotin:
You're paying 20% less.

Ric Reitz:
You're paying less and I'm paying more. Yeah, but I get to do the other things but the nonunion work does undermine the union work given the opportunity to pay less, people will take that opportunity. That's what's happened here in the right to work state.

Jason Sirotin:
That's what’s happened but see what's interesting to me is that’s what happens in every business. It used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a video. Now it doesn't.

Ric Reitz:
Now it cost 10.

Jason Sirotin:
Right. You can make a really great corporate video for $10-$15,000 and have it be a homerun.

Ric Reitz:
Yeah. You may not have the profit margin that you dreamed about so you got to have lots of those. How do you do it? Volume.

Jason Sirotin:
Volume. Yeah, it's all volume and coming up with efficient systems and figuring out new ways to be creative.

Ric Reitz:
And then looking for ways to get a homerun.

Jason Sirotin:
But so actors are … Because it's so hard for an actor to book a role. You've got to walk in the room.

Ric Reitz:
Harder now than ever.

Jason Sirotin:
You've got to be the exact person that the director or the casting director was thinking about.

Ric Reitz:
Don't look like the old boyfriend or girlfriend that dumped them at the altar.

Jason Sirotin:
Have the same name.

Ric Reitz:
Oh God that reminds me of Ted. I hated Ted.

Jason Sirotin:
Yeah. It's really rough. I feel like maybe it's just because acting is so special. You're playing pretend so people automatically think, “Oh it's fun.” They're getting to do something really and it is …

Ric Reitz:
Good acting is work.

Jason Sirotin:
Right, it is but I don't think … I'm talking about general people who are just getting into this business. They don't realize how hard it is to do well. Some people are naturally great at pretending and can do a fabulous job without trying but really good acting a lot of time takes thought and thinking.

Ric Reitz:
Preparation.

Jason Sirotin:
And preparation.

Ric Reitz:
And training.

Jason Sirotin:
And research.

Ric Reitz:
I had to do research for a role the other day just to audition but I showed up with the research and they went oh, you went online and studied this? Yeah, I went online. It's online. How hard is that?

Jason Sirotin:
But they hate handsome guys so they were like nope you’re out. You can be too handsome, you can be too ugly one day.

Ric Reitz:
I was doing a medical bit and I couldn't get the pronunciation of a term so I went on to the Mayo Clinic website to find out the pronunciation of this one disease. I'm the only one who showed up who knew how to pronounce the disease. They went, “Where did you get that?” I said, “Mayo Clinic online.” They went, “You researched it?” I went, “Yeah.” “You could be a doctor. You could be a doctor.”

Jason Sirotin:
You do look like a doctor. I’d cast you as a doctor.

Ric Reitz:
I got that role actually.

Jason Sirotin:
That's awesome. Scott did you have any questions about SAG AFTRA?

Scott Patterson:
No, not other than [inaudible 00:53:16] contributed I guess on the contracts, you talked about some of these contracts that SAG AFTRA is going to have with the production, the facilities and those typically SAG generated.

Jason Sirotin:
They're SAG generated.

Scott Patterson:
Kind of nonnegotiable that this is … If you're hiring as SAG actor, these are the terms. These are the working conditions.

Jason Sirotin:
What is a good resource for people to look at all of these [crosstalk 00:53:37]?

Ric Reitz:
To be honest with you, sagaftra.org. The public is allowed to preview all the contracts at no charge. There's the public side and then there's the private side of the members which is authorized through password and code and that sort of thing but you can research directly online, it's sagaftra.org.

Jason Sirotin:
You can get all the information there. You can make thoughtful decisions and I think the bottom line is if you want to do a major product with a major release, with a major chance of distribution, you're probably going to need SAG and AFTRA.

Ric Reitz:
At that level, you're going to need stars and that means SAG AFTRA.

Jason Sirotin:
You got to know the rules of the game in order to play properly.

Ric Reitz:
If you don't know as a producer or you're a young fledgling person who’s moving up in the ladder is what you do is you hire a good unit production manager or a first assistant director because their job is to know the rules.

Jason Sirotin:
The rules are important because remember, this is what's interesting is all those meal penalties, all of those overnights and no turnaround time, all of those fees add up and then you have those fees and then you get audited by your workers comp at the end of the show or at the end of the year and then you have to pay fees on top of that. Having good preparation and you're budgeting and good preparation on set and being prepared for the worst case scenario will help you get on track.

Ric Reitz:
I don't care who you are. Eventually I hope everybody that's listening, I hope you hit one out of the park. When you hit one out of the park and you step up, you're going to move into that zone and you're going to have to know it because there's no of avoiding it. There's no avoiding [Ahayatsi 00:55:22], the Teamsters, the DGA, Cinematographer 600, SAG AFTRA, it's not just the SAG AFTRA issue but when you move up into that category and generally those are budgets north of $1 million, you're going to find yourself in a different world.

Jason Sirotin:
Absolutely.

Ric Reitz:
You have to prepare for that but that's okay. That's part of growing up. I always laugh at people who tell me that they're SAG eligible or AFTRA eligible   and they go I'm as good as you. I'm just not going to join. I said you know what? I used to play baseball in college and I was drafted and I always wanted to be in Atlanta Brave so I guess I'm Braves eligible. I should put that on my contract. Now the Braves don't give a rat’s ass about that at all because I'm not an Atlanta Brave. There's everybody pretending to be here. Eventually if you're successful, you will be there. Then what's your excuse for not participating? There is no excuse. Let me tell you what …

Jason Sirotin:
You'll participate because that's where the money is.

Ric Reitz:
I have to work at a higher level. You have to understand. You would love for me to work for $100 a day.

Jason Sirotin:
Of course.

Ric Reitz:
Frankly, I can't and do a living. I own a home and drive cars and sent kids to college and my daughter got married and now I'm a grandfather and all these other things. My wife fought cancer and got through it with the SAG insurance. You think I could have done any of that without working at those higher scales? It's not possible. That's why 36 years later, I'm still here.

Most of my contemporaries are gone because they couldn't make the money. They go but you know what, if I'd wanted to, I would’ve. If I join … yeah, I could've joined the union but I didn't. I go but I'm still here and you're not and I have two pensions. I served two terms in the Army. That's what's comparable to. I have a pension and I have health and I'm approaching 60 years old and you start to really think about that stuff when you get older and you start having a family and trying to take care of them.

Frankly, nonunion environment is not going to help you do that unless you're just a unique enterprising individual. I'm not going to say that there aren't people like that. There are people who make a go of it. There are actors who know how to put money aside for their pension and their own health. Obamacare helps to a certain extent and then not to a certain extent. There are a lot of different options on the table and you've got to be a good business person. Now ask yourself why do actors have agents? Because they're not good business people. Why do actors need lawyers? Because we’re not normally good business people?

That's the truth and the point is it's great when you’re in your 20s, you don't have a family and maybe in your 30s, I was almost there, I almost made it. The reality is is I'm getting older and I'm getting nowhere.

Jason Sirotin:
The reality is is that if you want to be an actor long-term, you've got to have a plan.

Ric Reitz:
I'll tell you what, even as long as I've been doing it, I find other ways to make money too so I take the desperation factor out of it. I'm a writer. I'm a director. I'm a producer. I sell tax credits and I do that all on a part-time basis. Now did those other things overtake my acting? If I let them, they could but I'm an actor. At the end of the day, I'm an actor and I'll be an actor until I die but I'm not going to go backwards and I'm not going to work for crap because generally when I work on the low-budget stuff, not all but generally, it doesn't rise to the level that I can use it for anything so it becomes a job about money.

I didn't make money. I can't use it as a demo. I have these little things like trick off when I consider a role no matter what the money, A) am I a lead? B) what's the money? C) is there enough of a role here where I can get a demo out of it and can they deliver the demo? Because maybe nobody ever sees the motion picture but do I have a scene in there that I need that can sell me for something else. If I don't get one or two of those three things in a project, I walk away even from a role where I was the fourth lead, oh boy it's going on the Internet. I can't wait.

Jason Sirotin:
The Internet?

Ric Reitz:
The Internet.

Jason Sirotin:
Oh man.

Ric Reitz:
It's a worldwide inter-web.

Jason Sirotin:
I'm going to be a flip flopper. I came in thinking that I would still really dislike unions and I think the producer side of me has been pushed aside because everything that you're saying makes sense. You guys got to make a living. You've got to be able to survive and feed your families. It's only fair.

Ric Reitz:
There are productions that you will turn down from certain clients because you can't make a profit for this company and how many employees do you have?

Jason Sirotin:
A lot.

Ric Reitz:
Right and you care about those people and if you don't make X, they don't work and now I going to lay off somebody who just had a kid.

Jason Sirotin:
We turn down projects all the time because they're going to be cost more than they're worth.

Ric Reitz:
It's the same thing for the actor but a certain synergy has to happen in this new evolution of time, better for the young people to work in the new media and the low-budget stuff and you can steal a good actor. If you want to steal a good actor, give them a role that they would not normally play. What do I play normally? Leading guys, doctors, attorneys, government officials. When am I the bad guy? Who's scarier? I always ask this. Who's the scariest actor? Ted Bundy, who is a serial killer, who’s a handsome man, articulate and educated or a guy who looks like Richard Speck, a guy who would eat you, dismember you and throw you in the fridge.

You could see Richard Speck coming. Who’s the worst guy? The guy I don't see or the guy I do see coming. Conventionally, people always cast bad people who look bad. The guy who doesn't look bad is the scariest one to me. I'm never given those roles.

Jason Sirotin:
One more thing before we go and this is something we talked about probably about a year ago. We talked about long-term, a scale solution for all of SAG AFTRA. I believe we were talking about a movie where you were going to get the same amount, of money I think it was like $500 a day and you had 25 lines and then there was this kid, never acted in anything before and he was going to come in and make $500 for one line. What do you think about that? That seems like it makes sense. Are you still thinking about that? Was that you I had that conversation with?

Ric Reitz:
Yeah, you had a conversation with me. I was actually offered a role with a Samuel Jackson film called Barely Lethal. It was a big role.

Jason Sirotin:
Sounds sexy.

Ric Reitz:
It's not. Had the gal from True Grit.

Jason Sirotin:
Jennifer Lawrence?

Ric Reitz:
No, no, no, True Grit. She was 14 at the time. She’s probably 18 now. She's nominated for an Oscar. I can't think of her name but she was one of the sub leads. It was a high school thing where she grew up on a secret agent type family and was taught to kill at a young age and wanted to just be a high school girl and runs away and enters high school in the South and they find her and she's lethal. She can kill. She's trained to kill. She doesn't want to.

Anyway, she ends up falling in love with this guy in high school and it would've been my son. It's a $10 million film and here’s Samuel L Jackson and all these other people … Haley Steinfeld was the girl. It was like well and they came and I auditioned. They said now we want this guy to be funny. I have a comedy background like Second City and with a group [inaudible 01:02:58] same name but it's pretty easy for me to improv and do funny stuff. They loved it. It's rare that you can do an audition people are falling over laughing. They can't wait to hire you.

They said and for you, scale +10 which is the minimum. What? Well you live here. I went, “What?” This is one of the sub leads. You're paying him 3 million bucks. Come on guys. Pay me a little bit over scale just as a respectful bump and scale once again rounded off as $900 a day. I was going to make 900 bucks a day. Then they were going to hire this girl who had never acted before who had been an extra and she was going to play a cheerleader and she had a sentence. She too would be making $900 a day.

Hang on, dude what gives? Well, we're going to move to our second choice. Where is your second choice? Los Angeles. I said you're going to tell me that a Los Angeles actor is going to come here to Atlanta, he's going to work for $900 a day. He goes and he’ll be a local. So he's going to fly here and take that expense and put himself up for a week or two. He'll lose money. He can't make money doing that. I said take your second choice.

Jason Sirotin:
You know what's interesting about that is that there is such a supply of actors whether or not you know I'm not saying they are qualified or not but we do as producers, we have endless amounts of choices. If one doesn't work out and they don't suit our needs or the smell a scent of difficulty, we step away immediately because it's like it's more of a pain in the ass.

I'm not saying it's the right thing but that's what happens. But I think having it where it was like if I could pay her 250 a day, I didn't have to pay her 900. It's her first day. She's got one line. That would enable me to give you that bump without having to go back and reconfigure all my budgets.

Ric Reitz:
In the larger budget scheme for films and television, that probably won't happen. The minimum is supposed to be for that girl who says one line and I'm supposed to get slightly over scale at least because of my experience and who I'm playing. They just didn't want to play that game. I don't think that will change for film and television in the near future. It may change new media and that's where we're headed.

Jason Sirotin:
Isn't everything going to be new media eventually?

Ric Reitz:
Pretty much.

Jason Sirotin:
TV’s going away. Half the people in my office got rid of cable.

Ric Reitz:
My son doesn't have a television. He doesn't have a television. He has a computer. He streams and he's 25.

Jason Sirotin:
Who needs it?

Ric Reitz:
He doesn't. He doesn't care. He's got his iPhone or whatever his phone is. I'm not trying to sell Apple here over anybody else particularly after their announcement since last week.

Scott Patterson:
[inaudible 01:05:41] the legal cost.

Ric Reitz:
Their new bendable phones. No, it's totally changed. The new media thing will be restructured. In the meantime, the interim at least you got a new media zone to play in which is really under $1.2 million. That's your range so that's the Wild West. The corporate way we're trying to rectify that situation, voice over union versus nonunion, unless it's in the commercials where there's a residual table. It's a one off, you're in, you're out. You make the determination based on your budget, what you can afford.

If you need a premium talent and the premium talent is your front door and this is the right thing the actors value eventually is, is if I'm in a corporate form or commercial and I represent your company, who’s your front door, who do you want your front door to be? You want to be a guy who can't do it or a guy who can do it? It can cost a little bit more but it's your front door. You just told me about fixing up my website for the tax credit company so you could have the perception of more.

Jason Sirotin:
Yeah. Perception is reality.

Ric Reitz:
That's right. It's the same thing when it comes to talent. You can only substitute that up to a point.

Jason Sirotin:
If you hear Alec Baldwin's voice at the beginning of a commercial, you automatically think, oh this brand is legit.

Ric Reitz:
Right or Donald Sutherland. He’s doing Delta now and everything else under the sun.

Jason Sirotin:
Yup or what's the guy, Darth Vader, what's his name?

Ric Reitz:
James Earl Jones.

Jason Sirotin:
Yeah automatically adds something, it means something. Ric thank you so much for your time today. This is Ric Reitz, SAG AFTRA Atlanta president. Ric, you also have a film tax … You're a tax credit broker. How can people get a hold of you to broker their tax credits?

Ric Reitz:
They can go to the website at http://gaentcredits.com/ with an S plural, Georgia Entertainment Credits You can write to me individually as just Ric, [email protected]

Jason Sirotin:
Scott, thanks for joining us today Scott. If people need your excellent legal services at an amazing value, how can they get a hold of you?

Scott Patterson:
Otherwise described as the black hole but yes it's thepattersonfirm.com. That's The Patterson Firm and then my e-mail is [email protected] You can feel free to call as well at 770-422-8840.

Jason Sirotin:
Thank you for listening to the Naked Unicorn podcast. I'm Jason Sirotin with ECG Productions. Please visit our blog at www.ecgprod.com and we'll see you next time.

Jason Sirotin

  1. October 19, 2014

    Doug Hayden

    Very informative podcast!

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